You only get four songs. Like an exhale, it is momentary, but Pharmakon‘s first widely-available recording, titled Abandon (out on Sacred Bones) in the most foreboding way possible, stays with you long beyond its comparatively brief content. Margaret Chardiet is the voice in your ear, not whispering advice, but bellowing down your spine and through the soles of your feet. Her voice shakes the Earth to its very core, whether it’s hitting you in the face or filtering through every nerve ending you’ve got. To feel something with Abandon, you must first understand one simple truth: darkness is coming, and only your deepest instincts can ward it off.
Let’s backtrack a bit from the edge of the abyss: Abandon‘s songs run long, and each is filled with what can best be described as a hybrid of doom, noise, and apocalyptical electronics. That may not be enough ways to say that shit gets dark. It’s almost futile to distinguish each track, as they work together, interlocutors in the war against normalcy. Yet it’s the subtle touches that flourish here; on second track “Ache”, the echoing sound of disembodied corpses floats in the back of the mix, hidden behind Chardiet‘s bellowing, serving as a much necessary ethereal counter to the end of times. As the track rumbles to its conclusion, the percussive marching drums give way to the wind of a thousand hell-demons, perhaps with nowhere to go but blasting you in the face nonetheless.
Album closer “Crawling On Bruised Knees” takes that effect to another level, with looping airplane noises literally blasting apart into deep tremors, striking the audience with the force of a jet engine gone wrong. Here, Chardiet processes her voice to sound electronically demonic, Satan in a digital world. At one point, her guttural shouts devolve into a rhythmic scramble that recalls more a Resident Evil video game than anything musical or even human.
“Pitted” might even more of a signifier of what makes Pharmakon a force of sheer devastation; there are detonations in its intro, backed up by a woozy synth that sounds like a computer scanning itself for a destructive virus. Chardiet then comes in, not so much screaming as she is wailing, banging against the outer edges of a track that refuses to stay down. She’s got full control of the noise, whether her own or the surrounding chaos, and it shows. Before you know it, 3 minutes have passed and the drone has become a nether, with each element battling for supremacy over some forgotten world. If this is the end, Chardiet seems to be saying, bring on the horsemen. They will fall.
For an artist as young as Chardiet (the New Yorker is only 22), the record is both an impressive piece on its own and suggestive of future mastery. Noise can be alien to those not tuned to its frequency, but the real success of Abandon is that one need not be completely fluent in the machinations of chaos. No, what one needs is an open ear and a sense of the moment. And if that’s not enough? Pharmakon doesn’t mind. Your face will melt off just the same as the next person. The only question is how long until you cross over to the other side. Four songs is the answer; four songs is all it takes.
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